Almost a year ago, telecommunications operator Sprint acquired Virgin Mobile in a $438 million deal in a bid to boost its subscriber base and tap into the growing market for pre-paid mobile phone services as many cellular users cut back their service plans to make their dollars go farther. Today, Sprint unveiled its first major changes to the way Virgin Mobile will operate…and the new “Beyond Talk” deals includes pre-paid plans with unlimited data service that cost as little as $25 per month. And Virgin Mobile will start selling smartphones line the BlackBerry Curve 8530 to go along with them.
“The no-contract market has clearly moved beyond the credit-challenged and lower income segments,” said the head of Sprint’s pre-paid group Dan Schulman, in a statement. “The prepaid market has changed dramatically, with customers across multiple demographics and lifestyles demanding a wide variety of handsets, features, and plans tailored to their specific needs and wants.”
Sprint has outlined three new pre-paid rate plans: a $25 per month option that includes 300 minutes of voice service per month, a $40 per month plan that comes with 1,200 minutes of voice service per month, and a $60 per month plan that offers unlimited voice service. And all those plans come with unlimited messaging, email, data, and Web access. Users will be able to add BlackBerry data service to any of those plans for an additional $10 per month.
To back up the new prepaid Beyond Talk plans, Virgin Mobile will start offering high-end feature phones and smartphones to tap into the new services, including the BlackBerry Curve 8530, the LG Rumor Touch and Rumor 2, along with the Kyocera Loft. Of course, without a contact, customers wind up paying retail prices for these handsets: the BlackBerry Curve 8530 will go for $299.99; The LG Rumor Touch and Rumor 2 will go for $149.99 and $89.99 respectively, while the Kyocera Loft will run $69.99.
Where the prepaid phone business as largely been seen as the bailiwick of the credit-challenged, financially strapped, and folks who just don’t use mobile phones much, if it pays off Sprint’s move could trigger a broader shift towards offering data service along with voice options.
Sprint plans to launch its Beyond Talk offerings on May 12.